Homeownership not just a tax matter

Mood of the Market

Most people think of self-expression via their homes as using your paint colors and decor choices — or even home style and neighborhood — to customize their living spaces or project a particular personal style in a way they couldn’t have done while renting.

In a previous column I explored some recession-era changes in how Americans express themselves through their homes, from those who are conscientious (and vocal) objectors to the institution of homeownership entirely, to those who are intentionally buying smaller, more modest homes than they can actually afford, in part to make their fiscal conservatism apparent to onlookers.

In his book "What Investors Really Want: Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions" (McGraw-Hill, 2010), which serves as the basis for this nine-week series of columns (this is No. 3), professor Meir Statman points out numerous contradictions in what we humans want in the financial realm.

Status-seeking behaviors drive many of these contradictions, as the very indicators that signal affluence (McMansions, Hummers and investing in art, as examples) can undermine true financial well-being (to wit: supersized mortgage, sky-high gas bills, and losses when the art market turns).